George, our host in Sicily, when we visited last May, is a true Renaissance Man. Once we left the 1-800-world of big-box home centers and 24-hour supermarkets, we entered a world where your ingenuity and creativity are the keys to survival.
He has caper bushes growing along the side of the house. Yes… fresh-brined capers. And a carob tree in the front yard. His young nephews pick the carob, he sells it, and gives them the money. He has chickens for eggs, an organic garden of artichokes, greens, herbs… Lemons, pomegranates, prickly pears… 80-year old fig trees planted by his grandfather… and olives…
He’s constantly moving, constantly doing – with his 4-year old son in tow. His little boy – already fluent in English and Italian – is learning about living life to the fullest from the master, himself.
It’s a bit like what life was like here, before we all got fat, lazy, and gluten-intolerant.
I mentioned olives…
Sitting in our refrigerator the night we arrived was a huge bowl of olives they had cured themselves – from their own olive trees.
There really is something magical about eating something like this – that you have gotten out of a jar or can all of your life. I’ve had what would be considered good olives, before. These surpassed good. They were unique to the point of defying description. I had never had a freshly-cured olive grown within spitting distance of where I was eating it. We pulled that bowl out and munched on them all day long. Great with a beer, excellent with a glass of the local red wine. It was all pretty awesome.
And then there was the huge container of olive oil that was in our kitchen for our use…
Also awesome was the liter of oil we brought home with us.
In 500ml plastic iced tea bottles. Nothing is wasted. Everything is reused. And it really was the perfect vehicle for packing into our suitcases.
We’ve kept in contact over the past 5 months – I’ve done some web work for him and we’ve just kept up a friendly correspondence. So when my brother asked me about possibly getting more olive oil, I was on it. And, as they say, timing is everything!
Seems the olives just got picked and pressed!
What a process!
George stated: we produce one of the finest extra virgin olive oils in our area. The trick to get great olive oil is to harvest the olives by hand – hand selecting only the best quality. The reason is the hand picking avoids bruising the fruit, if the olive is bruised then immediately a chemical process starts within the olive that would increase the acidity in the oil, making it of a lesser quality. Then, mill the olives within 24 hrs of picking, The cold pressing of the olives paste must be done at a low temperature, that’s how all the aromas and flavors of the oil are preserved.
They’re cleaned of debris and washed.
Into the centrifugal masher…
And, finally, the liquid gold.
It will need to sit for the next 2 to 3 weeks to naturally filter itself – the sediment burns – but, if the shipping gods are willing, we’ll have George’s Olive Oil in time for Christmas!
Olive oil from a man who understands. Who appreciates what the earth has to give. And who gives back and is passing that knowledge along.
I don’t even know what this is going to cost. And… I don’t care.
I can’t wait!